Cheers as council opts for wards
Sighs of relief were followed by cheers from the public gallery at the end of yesterday's council meeting in Timaru.
It was all down to Timaru District councillor Tracy Tierney's decision to support Cr Richard Lyon's motion in favour of nine ward councillors, rather than 10 elected "at large".
Previously, she had voted in favour of the council putting the 10 "at large" proposal forward for public consultation.
The "at large" proposal has caused ructions in the Geraldine, Temuka and Pleasant Point communities, worried that they would be not necessarily be guaranteed representation on the council table.
Fiona and Hugh McCafferty were among dozens who bussed from Geraldine to attend yesterday's council meeting.
"We were singing songs of protest on the way to the council meeting," Ms McCafferty said.
"Mainly the classics, like We Shall Not Be Moved. We will be singing happy songs on the way back.
Mr McCafferty said if Timaru went to an "at-large" voting system, it would be akin to "no taxation without representation" for the Geraldine ward.
Crs Steve Earnshaw and Hamish Fraser's suggestions that "at large" could allow more people from Geraldine to stand for the council, did not go down well with many in the gallery. Pleasant Point resident Anne Flynn particularly disagreed.
"When we had the amalgamation more than 20 years ago, we were promised our own voice on the table," Ms Flynn said.
She did not think giving community board chairs speaking rights at council meetings would be a suitable compromise.
"Speaking rights are not voting rights," Ms Flynn said.
Despite the hubbub before the meeting, the atmosphere at the meeting was not as strained as expected.
There was applause after Timaru Mayor Janie Annear's speech in favour of keeping the wards, and some derisive murmurs during Cr Earnshaw's speech, but mostly, the gallery was silent during the debate.
Although there were some attendees such as the Green Party's Gerrie Ligtenberg, from Temuka, in favour of the "at large" councillors proposal, most were not.
Former Federated Farmers vice-president Donald Aubrey, who earlier indicated he might stand in a Geraldine ward by-election, was also in the gallery.
He said the council's about-turn was good news, but he would not say whether he was pushing ahead with his candidacy.
"I am pleased with today's decision, but it's one step at a time," Mr Aubrey said.
- © Fairfax NZ News